Naoko Mori has a Who-niverse reunion with Christopher Eccleston in tonight's John Lennon drama...
We haven't had a chance to catch up with Naoko Mori since Tosh's surprise demise at the end of Torchwood 's second season. So with BBC Four's Lennon Naked airing tonight, we seized the opportunity to have a natter.
So what are you up to at the moment?
I’ve pretty much semi-moved to the States since I finished Torchwood , so I’m quite back and forth. I grew up in the States so all my best friends are out there, so when I finished Torchwood I started spending a lot more time out there, so I’ve been out there on and off for the last 18 months or so, been back in Japan for a while. But I really miss England, you know? I was in Sainsbury’s for like two hours staring at Branston pickle, looking at all the lovely cheeses and thinking, I really miss it here! I could spend hours there – that and B&Q. Not only am I a computer geek at heart, I’m a bit of a DIY nut as well. I actually built my first vending machine at eight years old - that’s kind of sad, isn’t it? I just love DIY stores!
Do you have fond memories of Torchwood a few years on?
When I left Torchwood it was like the end of a little era for me.. It sounds really weird for me to say this, but when Tosh died, it’s almost like a little bit of my then self died too in a way, because I’d become so attached to her and I cared so much about her and I loved her and was so fond of her despite her flaws. But when she died, which still to this day I think was the right thing, it seemed the right time and the right place.
Still people come up to me a lot, there’s a lot of fans out there, and it’s so lovely when they come up to you and say oh my gosh, it’s Tosh, you’re alive! I loved that show and I loved everyone I worked with on it, it was such a tightly knit group. Naughty bunch we were, but I just absolutely loved every minute of it.
So did you have any idea she was going to get killed off when you started the second series?
I had no idea. I knew there was going to be something spectacular, a because it needed to be dramatic and powerful, but I completely trust Russell T Davies, so I knew there was something special coming. But no, I didn’t know. When they told me I was surprised, obviously, but I didn’t fall down in a puddle of tears. I actually started smiling because I just thought it was a brilliant idea, and it made sense and it was her time and I think it was important to do stuff like that, I think it’s important that there’s death because that underlines the fact that it is a dangerous job, it is real, and I’ve said this before, it was like a full circle for her, that was her journey and that was her fate. I couldn’t have asked for a better death scene, and really the big cherry on the icing on the cake was that video message, and when I read that, that was when I fell down in a puddle of tears. I couldn’t think of anything better written and better than that, so absolutely it felt right. Of course I was sad to go, but it felt right.
You appeared alongside Christopher Eccleston in the first series of Doctor Who ’s return in 2005. Did it feel like a reunion when you signed up to play Yoko Ono next his John Lennon?
That was really clinched the deal for me, when I found it was Chris. They wouldn’t tell me at first who they had to play Lennon, and I was like, I won’t do it unless you tell me – it was so much about having good chemistry, because it had to be someone who I felt comfortable with. All they would say was it was someone I’d worked with and knew. Literally two names came to my minds, and one was Chris. I couldn’t think of anyone else that could do it, and when I found out it was Chris, I was like, a) we’re on the same page, and b) if it’s Chris I’ll do it because I completely trust him as an actor – he’s so rich and earthy and he’s a great, great guy as well. And got on really well when we worked together on Doctor Who . So it was lovely.
So it’s as if the Doctor went to the late-’60s and hung out with the Beatles?
Exactly. It’s very strange, but he’s really extraordinary. Chris is brilliant in it.
How did you feel about playing such a famous figure?
When my agent called me I sort of laughed – just because I’m Japanese doesn’t mean I can play her. I don’t look like her, I don’t sound like her – but I’ve always been fascinated by her, and it was a great script. And I did a lot of research, even before I took on the project, because I knew it was going to be a humungus challenge. She’s such an iconic figure, still alive, and anything to do with such iconic figures is going to be a big challenge. So I did a lot of research and I then realised I’d kind of begun to understand her, and I began to relate to her in my own way, and that’s when it was like a snowball effect and I really got into her and immersed myself, so that’s how I approached the whole project.
Do you think there are a lot of misconceptions about her, particularly among Beatles fans?
Absolutely, and certainly I think I had misunderstood her, plainly not understood her from the beginning, from the get-go. Everybody has their own impressions on John Lennon and especially John and Yoko, so I wanted to make sure that I stayed unbiased, and I think I thought the main thing for me as an actress was to really understand her and try to get into her head and her heart. It just came naturally, it just felt right, but I wanted to make sure that she was portrayed fairly and shown in a different light. That was my first instinct, and yes, she was an avant garde artist, and slightly, for want of a better word, enigmatic and eccentric, but she’s a woman and she’s a human, and especially as a Japanese woman – there were a lot of things that I related with her. So absolutely, she got the bad brunt of it all – I think she was highly misunderstood.
We know you’re dead in Torchwood terms, but that doesn’t have to mean the end in sci-fi. Would you want to go back to the show?
I’ve always said I’d be open to it, though I am kind of in two minds about it, because it’s so often done, I guess, and people expect it – coming back to life has been done so much, so I’d be a little bit apprehensive about it. It really depends on the storyline and how it’s done. Also, I don’t want to take away from her death. I’m always open to suggestion, but it really at the end of the day depends on how it’s done, I think.